Lucy Soto, Jacksonville District's Equal Employment Opportunity Officer, is wrapping up her more than 36-year career this week while looking forward to her retirement.
"I am most excited about the opportunity retirement offers me to spend quality time with my elderly parents and give back to the community through the church I attend and other ministries," says Soto.
Soto's storied career with the Jacksonville District started when she was hired as a student aide in the Antilles Office in Puerto Rico while still in college.
However, upon graduating from the University of Puerto Rico with a bachelor's degree in Office Administration and no longer eligible for the student aide program, she went to work in the private sector for a prominent corporate law firm in Puerto Rico until she was offered another opportunity to rejoin her colleagues in the Antilles Office in 1986.
From that point on, Soto pressed onward and upward through the ranks, through the years with the Jacksonville District, until she reached the EEO officer role in 2015.
Rising through the ranks isn't always easy, but Soto put her best foot forward and maximized a strong work ethic that had caught the attention of those above her.
"People (supervisors, division chiefs, and others of influence) take notice of employees who have good work ethics, a good attitude, ambition and show potential to assume more responsibility," notes Soto.
"This was my case. Regardless of my role in the organization, I always took the responsibilities of my position seriously. I always thrived on going the extra mile to accomplish the tasks entrusted to me. I showed interest in learning more about our organization and available opportunities to do more, to help more."
When opportunities arose, Soto would jump at the chance to take on the responsibility, learn something new, and put a new tool in the proverbial toolbox.
One such collateral duty was as an EEO counselor from 1998 to 2005.
"At some point, I knew I needed to step out of my comfort zone and do something else, something different. That's when the opportunity to be an EEO counselor came about. My supervisor at the time was very supportive of having me do this as a collateral duty, and that was key."
"The EEO staff whom I supported as a collateral EEO counselor were very satisfied with how I performed in my counselor role."
Her collateral duty efforts as an EEO counselor prepared and led her to apply and be accepted for an EEO Specialist job when it became available in 2009.
During this time, Soto was recommended for the district's Leadership Development Program (LDP) by a supervisor who saw leadership potential in her. Taking his recommendation, she applied, interviewed, and was accepted into the 2011 district LDP course.
"That opened doors for me to apply for the EEO Officer position when it became available, and I interviewed and was selected as the district's EEO Officer in 2015," Soto noted.
As EEO officer, Soto oversaw the district's comprehensive EEO program and provided advice to the command on all matters related to the EEO Program. Additionally, she was responsible for ensuring the Jacksonville District workforce was trained on EEO matters, including Anti-Harassment/No Fear Training.
Soto's tireless work ethic and commitment to the district and its EEO program was brought to light when Lt. Col. Joseph Sahl, Jacksonville District's then-deputy district commander and now Nashville District Commander, nominated her for the 2019 Women of Color Technology All-Star Award.
In the award nomination letter, Sahl noted that "Ms. Soto is one of the hardest working and most dedicated professionals in the district; deeply committed to ensuring Equal Opportunity for all. Her bright and engaging personality sets a great example and encourages everyone to treat others with respect."
Sahl went on to highlight her in the nomination by saying, "Ms. Soto continues to be a model supervisor, even with building, counseling, and developing her team. She hired a diverse and unified team that exhibits her traits of encouragement, enthusiasm, and helpfulness."
As Soto wraps up her EEO duties on Jan. 31, 2022, she notes the greatest enjoyment she had while working for the district was the ability to help others.
She explained that assisting the district in making a positive difference for the workforce and the opportunities afforded to her throughout the 36 plus years she worked for Jacksonville District highlighted her career.
When reminiscing on her storied career, Soto noted her most significant accomplishments were:
- Selecting a team of EEO professionals that are passionate about what we do and creating tremendous synergy within the EEO Office staff
- Assisting/advising supervisors and resulting in effectively resolving some challenging workplace issues
- Assisting with USACE participation in Hispanic Engineer National Achievement Awards Conference (HENAAC) 2019 in Orlando, FL
- Assisting employees who came to our office to resolve a conflict between them and management or with other co-workers
- We are maintaining the neutrality of the EEO Office, which is crucial to the effective execution of the EEO program.
- Providing the workforce with excellent Special Emphasis Program observance events
We thank Lucy for her years of dedication and support to the district. You've left large shoes to fill within the organization by the high standard you set for yourself and your office. As you wrap up this chapter of your life, we hope retirement is everything that you've looked forward to, and you can now take some time to relax. You've earned it.
(The public can obtain news, updates and information from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Jacksonville District on the district’s website at www.saj.usace.army.mil, on Facebook at www.facebook.com/JacksonvilleDistrict and on Twitter at www.twitter.com/JaxStrong.